2015 Emerging Leaders Conference Around the World | Regional Highlights and Testimonies

The Emerging Leaders Conference (ELC) is designed for young people and offers discussions, lectures, and training on topics relevant to ongoing international policy debates. The Emerging Leaders Conference happens every year in the following regions: Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North America. Each WYA Region holds a local ELC.

The theme this year is “Health and Education: Keys to Development” highlighting the right kind of health and education policies and programs that work. Each region has developed a theme for their conference that addresses issues or concepts regarding these issues that is relevant to the region.


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WYA Africa hosted the sixth Africa Emerging Leaders Conference at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya from 11th to 13th of November 2015 with the theme “Empowering Youth to shape Africa’s Future.” The event brought together over 165 young leaders from thirteen African countries; Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The conference brought several policy makers, experts, international lobbyists and leaders who tackled and addressed issues and initiatives pertinent to the youth in Africa today which provided an eye opening and enriching experience for the delegates.

Asia Pacific

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Over 80 youth leaders from Asia Pacific gathered at this year’s Emerging Leaders Conference (ELC) held at The Bayleaf Hotel, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines, from October 15 -17, 2015. The fourth Asia Pacific ELC tackled the theme, “Redefining Education: Breaking Barriers, Empowering Asia Pacific Youth.” The conference sought to give participants an overview of education in the region; as well knowledge on the different initiatives being done by both public and private sectors to address some issues the area of education is facing today.

Aside from listening to the speakers through plenary and breakout sessions, the participants were also given the opportunity to work with their peers in groups in order to make a project proposal. WYAAP also celebrated its 10th birthday on the second night of the conference, and gave its very first Freedom for Excellence Award to Ms. Erika Tatad, WYAAP’s first Regional Director.


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From June 28 to July 1, WYA Europe organized the fourth Europe Emerging Leaders Conference with the theme “Youth for Development: Health, Education and IT” at the WYA Europe office and the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. The conference was participated by over 40 European youth leaders.

The 4-day conference included lectures and panel discussions from policy makers and key experts discussing issues and person-centered solutions to health and education in the region. The delegates also had the chance to learn more about WYA’s newest program the Human Dignity Curriculum and sister organization FEMM through special lectures. Aside from these, they also had group discussions, negotiations on a Declaration presented at the European Parliament, a run for dignity and a screening of the Manhattan International Film Festival.

Latin America


On October 23rd, WYA LA hosted the Latin America Emerging Leaders Conference (LAELC) in Mexico City gathering over 35 young leaders coming from 5 countries of the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. On its 5th edition, the LA ELC was themed “Empowering Youth: Latin America through Health and Education.”  This year, WYA LA wanted to explore the relation and also symbiosis that exists between health and education and how this affects the development of societies.

Through the participation of several policy makers, international lobbyists and experts in the matter the participants’ overall experience was very enriching. A series of outdoor activities such as a Rally and Dignity Race had been programed on the 24th but had to be cancelled last-minute due to an unexpected climatic conditions.

Middle East


The Middle East Region held the 2nd ME Emerging Leaders Conference themed “ELC 2015: The Cost of Sustainable Development in the Arab Region: Assess and Address” at the Humanities Faculty, Saint Joseph University on November 26th and 27th. The ELC aimed at educating youth on the yearly theme, and together with these youngsters, discover how these ideas can be translated and adapted to the local context. With a focus on the challenges that young Arabs face, the conference explored the role which youngsters play facing these threats and a call for sustainable development.

The two-day conference included panel discussions and working groups. The participants were divided into 3 teams where each group had to develop the Pitch and Game Plan of a project in line with the ELC theme. The working groups took the form of a competition, during the conference, their 3 drafts were presented. The groups are given an extension to present their final project on December 4th, the winning team will be given the opportunity to get their project funded and implemented.

North America


More than 70 youth leaders across North America engaged in intellectual discourse and attentively listened to discussions focused on the complex theme “The Apparent Trap: Ideology, Education and Health” from November 13 to 15, 2015 at the WYA Headquarters in New York. The 6th edition gathered participants, varying among professionals, undergraduates, graduates and high school students, live in a diversity of locations, from New York, Texas, Connecticut in the United States to Toronto in Canada.

The 3-day conference included lectures and panel discussions from an impressive line-up of speakers from reputed institutions such as Williams College, Emory University, University of Texas, and McGill University. The WYA Chamber Orchestra also showcased their talent to the audience. Three young musicians (the youngest of whom was in seventh grade) then shared how music and performance had molded them into who they were. Delegates also got the chance to meet other delegates and share their WYA involvement and upcoming initiatives during the cocktail parties.

Tristan Smith, USA

“Attending the ELC is essential to grasping what it means to be fully human and understanding the responsibility that comes with human excellence. The ELC engrains commitment, teaching youth how to integrate human dignity with community interaction and informing the youth about social policy.”

Ewa Wrona, Poland

“2015 Emerging Leaders Conference of WYA Europe was a unique experience. ELC challenged my critical thinking skills through group discussions and collaborations, provided me with a detailed understanding of the importance of health and education in terms of development and broaden my mindset through cross-cultural experiences. But the most precious thing I learned is that how fast people can get close within a few days of meeting one another. Although ELC aims in professional growth, it also enables its participants to foster long-lasting friendships and gather wonderful memories.”

Rodrigo Almazana, Mexico

“The experience I lived in the LAELC 2015 was something really different from what I expected. Four of the speakers excelled health, education, policy and society and it was very gratifying to open my mind and analyze things from another point of view. WYA’s objective is to bring young people the tools so that through the divinity of the human, they can achieve their objectives and attain successes that benefit humanity. Despite having to deal with “complicated” topics for our country they made us know that it is up to us to make a change and make the proposals for actual solutions for the future. Each of the speakers allowed me to analyze: what is it that I want for my country? And how am I going to make this happen? I think that they not only achieved this within me but also in the whole room full of young people, that like myself want to make Mexico an outstanding country in every possible sense worldwide.”

Marielli Rodriguez, Canada

“You will have a deeper understanding of things that thought you already knew, which enables you to feel more connected to reality rather than fall for ideology.”

Nour el Jawad, Lebanon

“I found the ELC very interesting and educative as it brought up a very existing issue. Moreover, the interactivity between the speakers and the audience was very engaging. Finally, I loved the workshop as it allowed us to take part, and actions, in the conversation. Thank you for that.

Ferdinand Bartolome, Philippines

“The WYAAP ELC has come to an end but for us delegates, it is just the beginning of our journey as Dignity Defenders. I’m very happy to be part of this unique experience and for the opportunity to meet outstanding people. We have different nationalities, religions and backgrounds but there is something great that binds us together and that is to make a difference in our country and our world.”

Ana Antunovic, Croatia

“I like the fact that the conference gathers a lot of young people from all over Europe, so we have opportunity to meet people from different countries and cultures and discuss with them these important topics and WYA values. I learned a lot about the important of health and education in development, through round table discussions, from different politicians and speakers, but also about programs that WYA provide. In the end, it changed my life in that way that I decided to postpone my work for another NGO in Croatia, and to come to Brussels for an internship.”

Yvona Nehme, Lebanon

“I would like to thank you and all of the WYA committee for this honorable chance that you have given us to live such an experience even on such short notice. What I truly loved about the Emerging Leader’s Conference is the way you guys, at the end, made different people from different majors and different ages collaborate with each other in order to find a small solution that might help this country in any way what so ever. And of course the extra information were very helpful and have awaken us to problems we didn’t know about.”

Edgar Velasco, Mexico

“I had the opportunity to attend the LAELC organized by WYA and I thought it was a very enriching experience. The variety of the topics presented and the diversity of expertise fields of the speakers had made the event a great and a very interesting opportunity for learning. On one hand, I was able to see the ethical point of view from someone that has a political career, a field where it is uncommon to find people working and doing so with moral principles and values consciously. Afterwards, I saw the presentation of a man with a very impressive career in the pharmaceutical sector. His approach was far more technical and focused on health, but I grasped valuable recommendations on how to conduct my life healthier, as I realized how alarming the figures of health issues related to the bad habits and lifestyles of younger generations. Generally, I’m very satisfied for attending and it makes me happy to see young people attend these events. The content of the event was very relevant and high quality, this is how the event managed to keep the audience’s attention and created conscience in them to build a positive change.”

 Details about the 2016 local Emerging Leaders Conferences will be posted during the Second Quarter of 2016.